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I wrote a piece on Mixel for the charming fellows at Creative Loop, the mixel images couldn’t be included in that post so i’m republishing it below

Mixel Nation

Apple didn’t invent the first desktop computer– it copied Xerox…but it was the first to combine the computer with the household appliance, sparking the personal computing revolution.” ~Kirby Ferguson, Everything Is A Remix

In the wake of the launch of iPhone 5 to a chorus of euphoria or slow hand claps, depending on your tribal allegiance, it’s timely to note that the innovative leap pioneered by Apple with the desktop computer was launched on an intuitive merger of pre-existing building blocks.I don’t at all mean to throw shade on Apple either now or then for redirecting the game with what already existed.

“What started it all was the graphical interface merged with the idea of the computer as household appliance. The Mac is a demonstration of the explosive potential of combinations.”~ Kirby Ferguson, Everything Is A Remix

This “explosive potential of combinations” is so perfectly embodied by the Mixel for iPhone App I feel as though I took a swig of Alice’s potion and rabbit holed my way to Wonderland. Mixel is a collage creating photo sharing app, sourcing from my phone’s photo albums and Instagram or Facebook, I can make a selection then sit back as the pictures are assembled in to a pictogram. It’s a lot more fun than that sounds and having spent a fair amount of time on Mixel recently I’ve come to appreciate how creativity can flow quite beautifully from taking the old and repositioning it to create something new. Remix Culture is all around us, it is the vernacular of the digital age in so many ways and here it is expressed through my ‘sunset’, ‘cat’ and ‘self-portrait pics’.

two Mondrians and the pavement

Giving life to some photo’s that don’t mean much on their own.”

I introduced a friend to Mixel and her observation illustrates why it’s so magical, why sourcing something that already exists and combining it in a new way can create something more meaningful.

If you’re not in love with the first layout that materialises after your photo selection just click the Shuffle button and watch your content reassemble within reordered frames. There are several filters to choose from and with your phone’s pinch-zoom incorporated here additional photo edit abilities can radically transform the material you start off with.

“it’s a great tool for visual inspiration”-@enriquegonzales

This iPhone iteration is Mixel 2.0, the first version having launched exclusively to the iPad last year was somewhat dense and labour intensive .The self-limiting audience of iPad users kept version 1.0 niche, rolling it out on to iPhone was a calculated decision to make what worked more workable and within version 2.0 the heavy lifting is done for you. The app has a design led interface that is intuitive to use and you can appreciate how it works as a creative tool.

The iPad Mixel may have been retired now, but depending on who you follow you can still be treated to the engaging spectacle of design principles being worked and reworked in a post. It is no bad thing to feel like an outsider sometimes, which is how I feel when something impressively complex pops up on my Mixel feed, the creative bells and whistles are impenetrable to me yet awesome still. It’s a bit like being presented with a piece of art that is challenging to make sense of, where I know that something genius has taken place I just don’t have a frame of reference to understand what that is. Not being a design creative isn’t a hindrance to producing something special here though and that this playful tool also stretches your aesthetic appreciation can make interacting with it a whimsical adventure.

Additionally there are sensory quirks to enjoy, like the ‘activity bar’ which fluctuates through the colour spectrum when the app is doing stuff. The real time notifications of Likes and Follows that flow in to your Inbox and of the several streams that can display everyone’s work, the Friends stream allows you to see what the users you follow are responding to. Then there’s the ‘Thread’, a novel element which amplifies the mix-tape vibe to a new level of fun.

above us only sky

I create a Mixel, it’s published and you can add to it by creating one of your own and establishing a link, this thread becomes a conversation that is sometimes Pass the Parcel and at others Chinese Whispers. As a rookie, feeling your way through a chain of collage is not completely intuitive, and maybe there’s an expected knowledge of collaborative behaviour that can trip you up if you’re clueless as you get involved for the first time. I sort of need to believe that you haven’t got the hang of things if you do conjoin your ‘out of focus sleepy eyed boyfriend’ shot to my obviously studiously considered artsy post. Seriously did you mean for that to happen? This is a democratic space though and whilst I might not enjoy it, I support your right to do it and I say that with no rancour because, enticingly, the’ end’ Mixel has the potential to be an inspired comment on the one at the ‘start’ of the thread.

cake thread

“Even World of Warcraft, the legendary multiplayer online role-playing game, is more about collaborating with others than completing the game. Though users can play aspects of the game alone, it requires characters to work together in groups to overcome major challenges. World of Warcraft players spend hours strategizing and socializing, both on and off-line. It’s more than a game; it’s a tribe.” –Nir Elayan, Where Have The Users Gone?

If I’ve given the impression that Mixel can be totally immersive then let me tell you why I’ve become so attached to it. Nir Elayan’s piece on social sharing behavior quite neatly framed my new obsession in a way that made sense although the joint endeavour of role play isn’t present here. For me it’s that I get to express the varied fragments of my visual interests within an echo chamber and confirm my place in the creative tribe. There’s an affirmation at play that has me excited about design, excited about photography and excited about art and the way I see the world. What I find really interesting is that it’s the limits of my imagination that are the great leveller. This democratic space broadcasts in the dialogue of remix culture and when I check in I’m in the perfect place to experiment and reference what inspires me. It’s no wonder I haven’t been able to stop.

Marc Baptiste mash-up